Goodbye, 2013; photographic resolutions for 2014

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Things on a distant horizon are not as far away as they might seem; it’s all a question of perspective.

Some of you will be disappointed to learn that this post does not involve any megapixel numbers. At the end of 2012 – precisely one year ago, in fact, I published a similar post for 2013. It got a surprising amount of attention, so I’d like to both turn it into an annual tradition, as well as examine whether I was able to keep any of the promises – now that the year is over…

Let’s start with my promises for 2013:

1. Shoot less. Sort of.
If anything, I think I shot more in total; but that also takes into account commercial/ professional work. Personally, I shot less quantity, but thought more about what I was doing for an overall higher hit rate. Part of that was undoubtedly due to shooting film for most of my personal work during the year.

2. Use what you’ve got. Epic fail.
2012 was probably the most expensive year for me in terms of equipment acquisitions; mainly because I had to rebuild a full, reliable professional kit (including backups and redundancies). I bought few cameras this year – the Ricoh GR, a pair of Olympus E-M1s, a waterproof Sony compact, and a Canon IXUS 520HS – but a lot of accessories, lighting gear, and lenses. I completed my Hasselblad kit with an additional five lenses, a digital back, five film backs, and pretty much every other accessory; I added another three SB900s, stands, diffusers, etc; two tripod heads – the Arca-Swiss P0 and Cube. I’m sure there were some lenses in there somewhere, too – a Leica 50/1.4 ASPH, the Zeiss Otus 1.4/55 Distagon, Olympus 75/1.8 and 12-40/2.8s. But I’m pleased to say that I’ve gotten solid use out of pretty much everything, and from a financial return perspective – I am running a business after all – it’s paid for itself, many times over.

3. Try a new format.  Check.
No question about this one – 6×6 has been my poison of choice for most of this year; certainly given half a chance, I’ve carried one of my 501s for personal work; I’ve also squeezed it into my commercial work where possible – perhaps against my previous better judgement, given that I’d wanted to keep commercial and personal work separate for reasons of creative development. I’d go so far as to argue that it’s taken me a step further in terms of my personal work; even if certain individuals might disagree. 645 is going to be my focus for next year; I’ve got to master the digital back and the slightly odd FOVs that it renders after chopping up the 6×6 frame. Sadly, there are no 6×6 full frame digital backs.

4. Reverse your lighting. Sort of.
A big part of commercial work has been about consistency of look and feel; this means using controlled lighting to create a natural feel. So I suppose in a way, reversal of lighting happened: I’m using speedlights where I previously wouldn’t have, and for some things – long exposures, for instance – I’m not; instead I’m shooting multiple exposures and combining afterwards in post. I think perhaps I should have had a clearer objective here to begin with.

5. Travel more. Check
2013 saw me in San Francisco, Mountain View, New York, Fukuoka, Tokyo, Amsterdam, Prague, Kota Kinabalu, Manila, Jakarta, Penang, Melaka, Singapore, Taipei, Basel and Yangon. Of those places, I’d only been to four previously as a photographer. On average, I was on the road twice a month. In hindsight: perhaps a little too much travel; first time I’d ever had a broken suitcase. On the list for next year – so far – are Melbourne, Sydney, Havana, Bali and London; that’s just the first half. Oh, and to combat the suitcase problem – I got a Pelican.

6. Share your knowledge. Check
I’ve somehow managed to sustain the pace of articles and content for the site; in return, it’s been rewarded by participation beyond my wildest imagination. Popular posts get over four hundred comments; that’s stratospheric. A big thank you is due to the contributions of the readers below the line; this is a live site, made so by the readers – all 150,000 of you regulars. In addition, this year we launched the teaching video series in a big way – it’s been so well received that we will definitely be continuing next year; I’ve got another 14 titles in planning, and two currently in post-production. Thank you again!

7. Experiment with video. Check
I served as creative director on a couple of corporate videos this year, of course in addition to my own teaching videos; I have to say I enjoyed the experience immensely. And it’s something I’ll be trying to do more of next year.

8. Develop my own film. Check
If one is going to shoot film, you really have to develop it yourself in order to retain full creative control. (I know the DSLR film scanning rig has taken a lot longer than I would have liked, but for something this niche – it has to be right first time out of the gate.) Part of the process has been shooting enough of a particular film under many different conditions to understand how it responds; part of it has been experimenting with the rest of the process to find something that works for your artistic intention. Through a lucky accident – I believe I’ve found that combination with Fuji Acros 100 and Ilford DDX. With the exception of my experiments with E6 slide film, all of the film images you see on the site were developed and processed 100% by me. And the best thing is – once you get a feel for the development process, the digitization is nothing more than capture, run action to invert and apply tonal map, and in rare cases, some spot dodge and burn. The proof is in the prints.

9. Conquer 35 and/or 50mm (or equivalents). Sort of.
I admit to not really having had a chance to give 35mm another go – part of the issue is that I don’t actually have a 35mm equivalent lens for any system (what a surprise, since I don’t like the FL anyway) except the 50mm on the Hasselblad + digital back due to the slight crop factor; this is not exactly a casual use combination. Perhaps I should just accept that I see in 28mm as opposed to 35mm; then again, the stubborn part of me likes the challenge. As for 50mm (or equivalents) – I count this one as a yes, because 90% of the images I shot with the Hasselblad on film were with the 80mm – which is a normal 50mm-equivalent. I consider 80mm + 6×6 film perhaps one of the most natural combinations ever; certainly one that’s very intuitive to me. I’m going to try to bring this to a smaller format next year; otherwise all of those 50mm-equivalent lenses I’ve got will go to waste. Especially the Noct-Nikkor and the Otus.

10. Streamline my workflow even more. Check
There’s a dirty little secret I’ve got. A lot of the more recent images posted on the site never went through PS at all other than for the resizing+border action; I made the changes I wanted in ACR, then saved directly. Granted, most of these were for situations under which lighting was controlled, so dodging and burning weren’t necessary, but still. Maybe that LR workflow video might just happen after all.

I’d say 7.5/10 isn’t bad going at all. So, what’s on the cards for 2014?

1. Commercial rationalisation.
Realistically, the commercial photography market isn’t getting any easier. I had a couple of big jobs with big clients in 2013 (the reason for the lack of On Assignment posts has to do with embargoes), which will hopefully pave the way to bigger things for next year. But these big things are lumpy, which means that I must find a way to smooth out the revenue spikes. As usual, this lies in diversification…

2. A shift towards the fine art market.
I’d already started this in 2013 with the two reasonably popular print runs; ultimately I think this will require me to further evolve the way I shoot, too. I recognize that this is perhaps an even more difficult market to break into than commercial; simply because it’s entirely irrational and dependent on you getting a lucky break or two somewhere along the line. Nevertheless, if one doesn’t try, one will never know. Hopefully, in the long term, this will result in two things: firstly, the ability for me to shoot only things I want to shoot, in the way I want to shoot them, and secondly, a stratification of income sources to allow a bit more financial predictability. Ultimately, I think I need to make the jump from creative stage 3b to stage 4

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On a related note: there are still a few prints left in the last limited edition run of the year, and another day to order. I’ll close once it’s no longer 2013 in any time zone.

3. My teaching activities will change.
I’ve now taught about 12 of the ‘Making Outstanding Images’ workshops; 2014 will be the last year I do this. Partially because I’m getting bored of it, partially because I feel that I need to further differentiate myself from everybody else out there doing workshops, and partially because I’ve had numerous requests from existing students for something more. In addition, the basic set of Making Outstanding Images workshop videos are complete. So far, Kuala Lumpur and Havana will be the first two; I may do another one later in the year in North America. On top of this, the Email School has become a bit of a runaway train; I’ve got over 130 students, and this is significantly impacting my ability to take more. I will relaunch this in a different format, to be tied in conjunction with the video workshops.

4. Experiment more: force myself to shoot differently, without backup choices.
Like it or not, different gear forces you to shoot differently. And that usually yields interesting results: limitation forces either creativity (or disaster). I’ve personally experienced both, often in the same shoot. I of course won’t be doing this on commercial jobs, but look out for some surprises in future photoessays.

5. Rationalize the gear.
It’s time for another garage sale, and soon. I’ve got far too much stuff sitting around as backup or ‘just in case’, or used one time for one job and collecting dust since. There’s no point in keeping things you don’t use. And on top of that, I feel like if I’m going to shift towards a certain output, then my equipment should also be reflective of that. I also can’t help shake the feeling that some point soon, I’m going to drop either FF35 or M4/3…

6. Direct and run a couple of my own exhibitions.
I had two exhibitions in 2013, but as they were sponsored, the content wasn’t fully under my control. That will change for 2014, as I’ve now got access to a dedicated (and excellent) gallery space in Kuala Lumpur. Look out for the first exhibition for January, and another one in the second half of the year; the latter will be geared more towards fine art, and with an eye towards sales.

7. Continue to build my profile.
Something I’ve continuously seen is that he who shouts the loudest is the most popular – regardless of whether he has anything worth listening to or not. Ideally, one must therefore be both loud and meaningful; I definitely don’t have the kind of recognition that would make doors open at will, but at least it’s nice to not be a complete unknown. Success in this business is all about image: both your output, and your own perceived value.

Interestingly, most of the changes are business ones rather than creative ones; I need to consider long-term sustainability of the commercial side of things, too. Without a viable business, I can kiss the creative side goodbye; there’s simply no means of supporting it. By creative, I mean anything that isn’t revenue generating – personal photography, articles on this site, product reviews, etc. It’s a tricky balance to maintain, as one cannot survive without the other. I think this is very much reflective of my current state in photography; people at different stages will of course have different objectives. The important thing is of course to have these objectives in the first place – irrespective of what they might be – in order to have something to work towards. Without a goal, improvement is going to be unpredictable at best.

As 2013 draws to a close – I honestly felt this year just zipped by – all that remains for me is to say a big thank you for your support, and wish you all a happy, healthy and prosperous 2014! MT


2014 Making Outstanding Images Workshops: Melbourne, Sydney and London – click here for more information and to book!


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Images and content copyright Ming Thein | 2012 onwards. All rights reserved


  1. I’ve noticed there have been a lot more shots with the 55mm Otus does that mean you have conquered the 50mm?

  2. Many of the 2013 things appear to be a logical progression of choices. Gear is always out there to temp us. I am finding that dealing with a damaged left shoulder is forcing me to make different choices, and question the bulk and weight of the gear I carry. Several Lowepro bags have allowed me to segregate my gear into groups, and lower the weight into easier to carry chunks.

    The idea of experimenting is one we should do constantly. Almost tough to number something like that, or tie it to a list of things to do in a year. My own direction of experimenting is to lean towards getting a pinhole camera, because it is the only realm of photography that I have not yet attempted. However, the softness of images may be too far removed from the way you approach imaging.

    That is probably one of the better Lightroom overviews I have seen. It’s not really a tutorial, unless you want to replay it over and over to find all the things he is doing. I have a new MacBook Pro and now have the latest Lightroom loaded. I’m sticking with the old Photoshop, because I can accomplish all I want with that, and I’m not happy with the subscription software model. Anyway, the path of imaging horsepower beyond Lightroom would be Phase One Capture One, and I may venture towards that at some point in the future.

    My other big move is another scanner, which will be arriving soon. After numerous adapters and software gymnastics, the gigantic flatbed on which I do wet mount scanning will be going back into a box. The 750M Pro that replaces it will have an oil mount set-up, and connectors that easily plug into modern computers. Even with that, I expect a slight learning curve to get to where I like. Ultimately your DSLR scanning rig may be a much slicker way to get film to digital.

    Of course that brings up the idea of still shooting film. I get questioned about it constantly, but the answer is in the images. When the images make an impression, and they came from film, then the idea of using a film camera becomes a non-issue. Labs are getting much more scarce and tough to find. I don’t think I want to process colour (C-41) negatives, though I may dust of the tanks to do my own B/W films. Anyway, there is another of my wishes for 2014, to shoot more B/W film (mostly 120).

    Regarding the loud idea of attracting attention, I suppose it depends upon what kind of attention you want. I don’t know too much about the depth of your readers, though I have always felt that quality outweighs quantity. I hope you don’t morph into one of the loud voices of internet photography, because there are already too many of those people. As they say in California, keep it real.

    Gesundes Neues Jahr! (Happy New Year in German)

    • I think all creative development is an evolution rather than sudden step changes. We need to be able to imagine/ see where to go next before we actually try to go there 🙂

      I have the final prototypes for the DSLR scanner, but haven’t had a chance to shoot some film to have something to run through it – it is on my to do list…I do really want to get the thing out as soon as possible, but I also don’t want it to be compromised.

      As for film development: I really can’t see a reason to shoot color anymore. Digital color is so much more consistent, controllable and of higher quality; you can bias it any way you like. B&W is different simply due to tonal response. I still haven’t been able to consistently replicate that smoothness especially in the highlights; I’m not even sure I can until we have maybe 16-17 stop sensors.

      And yes: quality over quantity anytime! Happy new year!

      • I’ve been working on the camera design for a couple weeks now, once again. Starting to run into software limitations. I may move to some other 3D design software, then redraw everything. These types of things always take longer than expected. 😉

  3. Happy new year! May 2014 turns out to be a Million $ year for you.

  4. Just realised the “Revisiting Slide Film” article is 404’ing, and I can’t seem to find it with Google either…

  5. Sounds like you have a very good 2013, I wish you continued success in 2014. I look forward to watching your journey. BTW have you enjoyed the em-1?

  6. Happy New Year Ming!

    I haven’t commented in a few weeks so I apologize to you and the rest of the gang for not doing my part to contribute to this amazing community. Thanks from the depths of my heart and soul for the gifts you give to each of us as we all learn to see and hold (if only for a moment through images), the light and love of this glorious world! You are a true inspiration and mentor for this art of seeing and it’s an honor to share in your journey. I wish you and yours continued success in 2014 and my wish is that you continue to offer in person workshops for many years to come. My life circumstances don’t permit me to pursue a slot yet…but one day my friend, one day 😉

  7. Philip Ong says:

    I remember the first time we met when you came into my office and wanted to claim the warranty for your Billingham.
    Your first roll of prints from your b&w film. yada yada yada…and fast forward to the end of 2013. Your adventure with
    photography is one many would admire. You share as fast as you learned, which is a trait highly commendable and very
    rare in the photographic world. I wish you all the best in 2014 and beyond! I’m certain, the adventure will only get more exciting.

    • That seemed like a long time ago – but was what, two years? I’m very, very grateful for your support and friendship Philip – see you at the opening party on Friday, and all the best for your new role(s) in 2014!

  8. Ming, I wish you the best for 2014. You’re indeed an inspiration and thanks for that!

  9. Kristian Wannebo says:

    5) (2013) :
    A wonderful bird is the pelican,
    His bill will hold more than his belican,
    He can take in his beak
    Enough food for a week
    But I’m damned if I see how the helican!

    [ Dixon Lanier Merritt 1910 (according to Wikipedia) ]

    6) (2014) :

    And thanks for an interesting year on your blog!
    Wishing you a Happy New Year!

  10. Last year for workshops?

  11. Brett Patching says:

    Happy New Year Ming! Thanks for such an outstanding resource. All the best for 2014.

  12. Thanks for your blog. Now I (an amateur) am motivated to make my own photography resolutions. #1 and #2 in that list, oddly, are the same as my #1 and #2 in an overall resolutions list: 1. improve physical fitness, both strength and endurance 2. change sleep habits so it isn’t such a chore to get up well before dawn. Those resolutions are highly important for nature photographers who have to hike with kit and have to be on site before dawn, preferably fully awake and full of energy. I have a tendency to have resolutions of type “Learn technique X”. I need to add improved planning/ previsualization to the list.

  13. As always, fantastic blog. Yours is one of the most comprehensive and well-written photo blogs out there. I don’t comment nearly enough, but I read almost daily. Thanks for a great year and good luck moving forward.

  14. Think outside the box, if you know what I mean……….And forget your horoscope!

  15. Adam VanDyke says:

    Thanks for a great year Ming, my first time commenting,great reviews, and photos and topics for the the other writings as well. Not sure but I think it’s been at least a year that I’ve been a fairly regular reader of this blog, and yes the OMD was a revelation of what much smaller can do, thanks for that review, just ordered the Em1 through your link, passed on the Em5 to my brother and his wife, who are amazed by it as well. For 2014 I look to get the computer aspect of the workflow working better for myself.

  16. John Brady says:

    Ming, thanks for another year of superb posts. I know that your gear posts get the highest number of hits but I personally find your thoughts on the philosophical and aesthetic aspects of photography to be the most rewarding. Wishing you a prosperous and happy 2014.

  17. Happy New Year Ming, to yourself and all the blog commenters.
    Have enjoyed the videos and the blog throughout 2013 – don’t know how you find the time for it all.
    All the best for 2014.

  18. Thanks for everything you do, Ming. What exactly do you mean when you say “apply tonal map” to your inverted bw images? How do you create your tonal maps?

  19. Michael Matthews says:

    Best wishes for the new year, MT. Thanks for your generosity in 2013 via this medium. Here’s hoping we’ll be able to see the projects involving your creative direction. Perhaps your clients may appreciate the added value of behind-the-scenes photo or video essays once the campaigns are published. Oh, and add one more vote for the Lightroom video, if time permits.

    • Thanks Michael! Yes, there will be ‘on assignment’ posts as usual – though I’m not sure to what extent as my involvement is probably going to tie me up massively from making B roll…

  20. Happy New Year Ming!
    Thanks for all your website work and Taipei 101 print offer which I can”t wait to get/see.
    Any interest in shooting large format b&w like 4×5? I keep wanting to try it and a MF ‘glad too.
    Can”t believe you were in Mountain View so close to where I live. I would have liked to have met up for a beer.
    Need to save up for the Otus and some of your videos in the new year.

    • Thanks Wayne – we’re printing at the end of this week once the next exhibition is complete, so you should get it not too long after.

      Definitely interested in larger formats – except obtaining film here is nearly impossible, so that keeps it from being practical 😦

  21. Heraldo Botelho says:

    I wish you another excellent and productive year, and that you keep raising the bar for everyone. Have a great 2013!

  22. Agree with most of these resolutions, but my first priority would be to stay alive in 2014 🙂

    Had a great 2013 though:

  23. scatteredcrumbs says:

    Dear Ming, I’ve enjoyed your work tremendously over the last year. Where you get the time and energy to do it all is a mystery. Thank you for all your hard work. One thing I’d REALLY like to see for next year is a Lightroom workflow tutorial. A lot of us lower tier photographers find it is all we really need. Thanks again and Happy New Year! John Ames Ming The

    • Ah, that’s not a mystery. Blood test results a while back came back with ‘TYPE: CAFFEINE POSITIVE’ 😛

      I hear you on Lightroom. Many, many people have asked. The problem is I’ve got to develop a workflow from scratch for a piece of software that I don’t use…that takes time. A lot of time.

  24. I agree about the challenges of commercialization of photography. It seems very much to me that photography is changing in the way it is conducted. With high-quality imaging at low prices there are many ‘photographers’ that might do a sufficient jobs for large part of the consumption commodity part of photography: do you really need an Otus and 36mpix and technical high quality for a newspaper shot that is either shown on the web or in cheap print to be consumed once? I believe that is why newspapers start to go down a cheaper and faster route… As a consequence many ‘more sophisticated’ photographers will try to venture into more high-profile businesses. The market entrance barriers in terms of technology are very low (you can do easily do commercial stuff with m43 – you just might not want to talk about it). This it comes done to artistic expression plus some networking. Is this going to be a problem? I do not think so. But I agree that it will be more about developing a USP and strong diversification.

    On the other hand, when it comes to commercial viability vs personal interest: diversification is key. Does it make sense for you to compromise at all? You have probably have enough possibilities of diversification adjacent to photography to stabilize your cash flows?

    Ming, great read!! I wish you all the best for 2014!!

    • No, you absolutely don’t. As much as I hate to admit it, issuing iphones is probably the right way to go; however it is very important not to undervalue the person behind the lens – iphone or not, experience does matter!

      Even though the barriers to entry on the gear front are low, the experience/ skill front if anything has gotten more difficult since there’s now a lot more visibility for everybody – it’s good and bad for all parties.

      Nope, I’m not compromising. If you do, that’s when you run the risk of falling into mediocrity – and others including Nick Brandt have given me the same advice. I have things going outside photography, but my main cashflow still comes from photographic-related things; future diversification will be more along the lines of things that are difficult to do without the right experience – overall creative strategy, for instance. I’ve got a couple of large projects on the near horizon for early 2014 which will go in this direction. I will not only be responsible for images, but the overall look and feel of an entire campaign; everything from the visuals to the physical presentation of the product and the campaign strategy. There’s only one of me, so the only way I can increase my value is to deliver more value – and services which others cannot.

      • Once the technological field is leveled and everybody has more or less access to the same tools and technical quality, it will be *only* (with minor discounting) about the person behind the camera (experience + talent) or more generally the creative mind behind the concept/idea.

        You mentioned an interesting thing: there is only one of you. That is the opportunity and threat of any business that is tightly linked to a specific person: it does not scale well, protecting it from being easily copied but also making it hard to protect it via shear size. I have been wondering for a while now, whether there is a sustainable way of adding a component that scales easily. I think you went into this direction with your online courses, videos etc? How do you feel about this in terms of distance or closeness to your “core photography”?

        • Indeed. And I don’t think a level tech playing field is a bad thing at all. Maybe people will stop being obsessed with gear and get on with the business of making images 🙂

          Scalability: difficult question to answer, to be honest. Whilst I’d of course like to grow without having to sleep fewer hours, it isn’t going to happen. But that’s fine, I think; I just have to be a bit more savvy about where I spend my time. And part of that is ensuring that the ‘core photography’ part doesn’t get compromised, otherwise everything else becomes rather meaningless.

  25. Happy New Year Ming and Family! Wonderful progress on your resolutions. Looking forward to shooting with the Ricoh GR and 21mm conversion lens. For my part I: “Used what I had” and went the entire year with the SONY RX100 and got over the Bokeh crutch that had followed me for years.

    I have really learned a lot from your site, flickr reader pool and your videos. Thanks for everything!

    Best Wishes – Eric

  26. Louis Woolf says:

    MIng, wishing you a happy and healthy new year. All the best. Louis
    ps, please give me a prelim of your garage sail items when you choose to do so.

  27. Dear Ming,
    First of all, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. I wish you a very happy an prosperous 2014.
    I would love to see a Adobe Lightroom Workflow video. Please consider to make such a video available.

  28. Wishing you a good 2014 photographically and in all ways. I don’t really go in for resolutions, but photographically I’ll make an exception: one is to learn to love and use wide angle (to which end I just got, for a very good deal, a Ricoh “GR V / no official number” or whatever it’s called: the new APS-C one which you seem to rate highly). The other is to improve my post processing skills, so it’s quite possible you’ll be getting an order for some of your photoshop videos in the coming weeks.

    It’s still 2013 here for another few hours, and I’m charging up the Ricoh with the express purpose of taking some shots at the midnight celebrations here (Japan). The DP3 Merrill’s going to have to sit that one out for reasons of ISO 🙂

    • Thanks Mark. Once you get the hang of 28mm – then slap the 21mm converter on it. I swear I could use that all day and be happy – so long as my clients didn’t scream…

      • Hi Ming, thanks for sharing your expertise, I know I’ve benefitted from it over the past year.

        Although it took me a while to make the decision, one of the reasons I bought the GR was because I saw it added to your gear list. Once I started using it, I sold quite a bit of equipment which had become redundant.

        Thanks to that, I also managed to learn to use multiple speedlights with the GR’s leaf shutter to drastically improve my portraits, and captured some priceless pictures of family and friends this holiday season. I want to thank you because I would have had just OK shots without the extra push from your excellent posts.

        Keep up the great work and impressive upward photographic trajectory, the rest of us will be trying to keep up.

        Happy New Year!

  29. Taildraggin says:

    Best wishes for the new year!

    “Dropping FF35”. Do you mean 35mm film? 120 film use pretty much killed my 135 film use, except to dust off old cameras. 120 and larger have the power.

  30. LR workflow… AWW YEA!

    Which two videos are up next, or is that a secret? 🙂

    (Strongly considered not posting this as all I’ve done lately is talk about videos, but I figure it’s better than just talking about gear!)

    • Actually, I have no idea. I’m up to my eyeballs with assignments for Jan, so I haven’t given it much thought. Probably either Outstanding images 4/5 (exploring and processing for style) or the LR workflow/ PS workflow update pair. Possibly also ‘the process of editing’…

      • Cool. If it were anyone else I’d say “sorry to hear you’re up to your eyeballs”, but in your case that means $$$ doing something you love, so… delighted to hear it!

        For what it’s worth, the LR workflow/ PS workflow update pair get my vote; after the first half a dozen videos on what, when and how to shoot, I’m keen to learn how to process the results better.

        • Noted – and yes, I’m not complaining at all about being busy. NOT being busy is a bad thing when you’re working freelance…

          • Loved Street Photography Ep1, by the way. I now have a whole load of things to try next time I go out! Thought the preamble was particularly useful, because it touched on all the important stuff learned in the other videos–there’s a lot to take in across the series, so a bit of reinforcement is nice.

            One thing I’d add personally/would like to see: basic EXIF when you’re showing sample images. Nothing fancy, just focal length/shutter speed/ISO. You’ve said in the past that any such settings are particular to a given image, and I agree, but it’s still interesting and helpful to see; as a FF35 shooter, for example, what focal length you’ve used on the Hasselblad isn’t always immediately intuitive.

            A Flickr set for each title might be easier to implement, and would be good for those who just want to savour the images as well as the technically curious.

            • Noted – will sort it out for the next videos…

            • (Having said that, the Hassy doesn’t seem to share much in the way of EXIF, which might be part of the reson you haven’t done an overlay.)

              • None whatsoever, actually. Any EXIF in Hassy images is either the D800’s scanning settings (film) or just ISO and maximum shutter time (the back stays on/ sensor powered for this duration after the initial release). It’s not really very useful and my memory isn’t good enough to tell you exactly what aperture/ shutter speed was used…

                • Damn! I don’t know about you, but inconsistency of overlaid EXIF would annoy me no end… Maybe just a Flickr set, then. That’s less work for you anyway 🙂

                  That Hassy is a beast. The subplot to those videos was finding out what the sync cable was for, and why you were counting the long exposures 😀

                  • They’re all on Flickr (or will be eventually) – just finding them is the tricky bit. 😛

                    Sync cable: it tells the digital back how long to activate the sensor for; otherwise it just activates when then shutter pushes the film counter advance pin, then deactivates after a preset time. For short exposures – no issues, for long exposures you need to set the time to longer than your exposure or risk odd effects. I was counting my exposure time – anything >1s is bulb mode 🙂

                    Actually, the subplot was about the Calpis Soda machines…

                    • Looking forward to seeing the incense stall shot, and the night and park medium format stuff from Ep2. They’re not up yet, right? Don’t care about EXIF, just love the photos 🙂

                      I wondered what the maximum non-bulb exposure was! Seeing you wind the thing (shutter advance?) threw me off at first too, I thought you were shooting film until the back was revealed… Part of me thought “rather you than me”, but the results are absolutely lovely, and I can certainly see the appeal of the almost film-like process of using it; like driving a vintage car. Always nice to see tripod and M-UP in an age of quick grab shots, too.

                      The Calpis stuff was a nice touch, as was the Terminator-style trailer. Humour and humanity 🙂

                    • No, I haven’t uploaded Tokyo yet – probably because I haven’t finished uploading Europe, either. Just getting started on Japan to keep things from going stale.

                      All digital V-series adaptations still require winding of the film back to rewind the shutter and lower the mirror. 🙂

                    • Looking forward to seeing them.

                      A final note: I’ve bought various other tutorial videos this year (combination of several photographers I admire releasing videos at the same time, and reaching the point with the hobby where I’m more interested in learning how to do it properly than getting more gear–four and a half years in!), and yours absolutely dump all over the others.

                      It’s not that no other photographers have anything interesting to say… I want to have a diverse range of influences, and I want to learn from all of them. However, so far I have learned…

                      1) If you’re going to release a crowd-funded video, do so on time, and get the production and editing right.
                      2) If you’re going to film a three-day course, for God’s sake get a good editor so those watching afterwards don’t have to sit through hours of pointless crap.
                      3) Most teachers fall into either the “highly technical” camp or the “use P mode and go on feel” camp, without having a solid understanding of which approach to use, when and why.

                    • Actually…I’ve never seen any other videos. My litmus test is that a) it must be something I would watch, and b) err on the side of more information rather than others.

                      1) Damn! I should crowd fund rather than own-pocket-fund…
                      2) Agreed. There should be no more video than there is teaching time during the actual course.
                      3) The highly technical ones may not have the art bit nailed down. The P-mode-and-feel ones may be good compositionally, but not necessarily know why they are good. I believe it’s just as important to know why things work as why they don’t.

                    • 1) Crowd-funder charged a very reasonable price for his video, but simply wasn’t able to get it done on time; it was released in a partially-unedited state (complete with mistakes and do-overs), with poor quality sound (I don’t mean “inexpensive mic”, I mean “hard to hear in places”) and footage that looked to me like it hadn’t been graded. The overlong run time also resulted in a massive near-6GB download that caused serious issues for the company sharing it; just getting hold of the thing required multiple overnight attempts.
                      2) Three-day course teacher was inspirational, and you can’t complain at the value for money offered by making the whole thing available, but the content is simply spread too thinly; I’ll make time to sift through 15 hours of footage looking for the good bits if I have to… but shouldn’t that be the job of the people making the video? By the end, you realise that simply recording something that works ‘live’ results in a lot of repetition, and pacing that just doesn’t sustain your interest.
                      3) Agreed. To be a good photographer, all you need to do is find an approach that works for you; to be a good *teacher*, you need a much broader and more thorough understanding of the whole topic; you can’t present your way as gospel. Watching a fairly high-profile photographer telling all his students to shoot in P, displaying a decidedly sketchy understanding of how P mode works *and confusing the issue with metering choice*… it literally made me cringe. The point being made (i.e. P mode works well for action) was sound, but you could tell his knowledge of the subject was both secondhand and limited, and as a result people are going to go away more confused than they started.

                      These are all genuine examples from videos being sold at prices equal to or greater than yours. I’m sure it’s f-ing hard to make the things, and I don’t claim to be able to do any better, but if you can’t stand the heat……… I wish people wouldn’t take my money if their product is half-baked.

                    • 1) Ouch. We spent a lot of time and effort with sound – I’m glad it shows. In fact…the Tokyo VO for the still images was completely re-recorded twice because we weren’t happy with the way it matched the live video. We’ve also got several servers in key continents to hopefully keep everybody in sufficient bandwidth…

                      2) Yes, it should. Distilling the key bits from the course into a video is not so easy; it requires another round of thinking again. We go out with a shot list and a shoot board; the only thing we can’t predict is the subjects. Sometimes we have to abandon a take because I might get a shot by fluke, but can’t demonstrate/ explain as we have no more subjects 😛

                      3) Do we know who that ‘high profile photographer’ might be? I’m now starting to worry slightly as I do use P mode at times…

                      You should have left out the price bit 😛

                    • First of all, Happy New Year Ming and Todd, and everyone else. It seems like Todd and I are the only people who talk about the videos. Oh well … Watching the latest 2 videos gave me GAS for an MF digital back until I started looking, and when I could find anything for sale, the prices are astonishing to say the least. I think I’ll settle for a once-a-month film check for now when I put down the digital cameras and run a few rolls through to see if my eye is improving, and to keep the gears in the film cameras lubricated. And just importantly, it’s also to make sure I don’t forget how to load the Hasselblad. It feels like jumping without a safety net!

                      Here is perhaps a heretical thought about Lightroom, and your dirty little secret is at once surprising and not: while I’m a dedicated LR user, and look forward to your LR video, I’m not sure most people will get as much out of it as they think they will. The reason you may be able to get away from doing much post-processing of your images is that your shooting style and vision has probably evolved to find and capture the quality of light that you want on your final image, so you don’t have to do as much to bring it out PP. A less-evolved photographer (eg. me) might see something that is less desirable, and then try to use PP to make up for it.

                      It’s not unlike thinking that if we use the same gear as you do that we will produce the same quality of images.

                      One last random thought if you haven’t seen this yet. The Atlantic just put out their extensive list of the images of the year: This is just the first of 3 parts, so click on the links within to see the others.

                      It’s interesting going through them with your 4 qualities of an outstanding image in mind, which is probably the most important photographic thing I learned or did this year, because many of them, especially the very powerful ones, are all about the idea and the context (relationship of fore-, mid-, and background). If anything, it’s blindingly obvious why those pictures are so powerful. Light comes into a few of them, (the Syrian rebel sleeping in the cave checks all 4 boxes), but context and idea dominate, with composition serving both, but being almost invisible. Being reportage, I suppose it shouldn’t be surprising, but it’s instructive how few pictures also depend on shallow DoF and other things hobbyists worship.

                      Anyway, I’m looking forward to a great new year and lots of photographic adventures!

                    • They are rewarding but demanding and expensive to shoot; in some ways, binary: you hit the bull’s-eye, or you don’t. And when you don’t, it can be very frustrating especially if you know you would probably have gotten a shot of some sort with say an E-M1.

                      You may well be right with LR; even with PS I’m doing less and less these days. That said, the workflow itself still has the power to fix some pretty major gaffes, so maybe not. I can’t honestly say that will be the case with LR because it simply lacks the control and flexibility of PS; I think you have to get it more or less bang on out of camera; LR is then for conversion, cataloging and maybe adding a little final sparkle. Or worse still, a 90% result that most people will be happy with, but will frustrate the advanced PS user because they know there’s still a bit more to be had.

                      Thanks for the link – I feel vindicated, even if I don’t shoot that kind of thing anymore 🙂

                    • Rereading my last comment makes it seem like context is one of the 4 things, which it’s not, but how they use context to tell a story and project the idea is so dominant in most (maybe all?) of the powerful images that the other 3 things (subject, light, and composition) kind of recede a bit. Certainly, the other 3 things are not terribly executed, but the storytelling aspect is quite powerful. That’s probably why those images resonated.

                    • Context is part of storytelling and the idea; you need the other three to make this work.

                    • Happy New Year Ming and Andre!

                      Thanks for going the extra mile to make these videos great; it shows. Hugely appreciated.

                      Regarding P mode guy: relax, definitely not you! 🙂 This was a wedding photographer telling his M-shooting students to put their full frame cameras in P, and use the spot meter and hold/averaging approach. The theory was sound (that way they’re in a better position to shoot action), but there was no explanation of program shift and the importance of depth of field with full frame, and the metering portion was a complete muddle—not clearly differentiated from mode choice, and no explanation of what the different types of meter actually do. Basic stuff, but fundamental to people’s understanding. You could tell the students were confused.

                    • The trick is to break it down into steps small enough that the students can make their own logical leap – that’s when things sink in. The tough part is when every student has a different level of experience and ability…

                    • Agreed with Andre regarding LR: it works best with stuff that’s nearly there in-camera. I usually don’t keep (or at least don’t share) photos that require more than a quick going over with the ACR controls, because they always turn out to be lacking in some way that’s more fundamental than PP. Conversion, cataloging and final sparkle is enough for many people; no question that PS allows you to do a lot more, but you can always export to it later. Rather than trying to do it all, maybe a LR video should stress the importance of (a) get it right in camera (crap in crap out!) (b) learning when to take something into PS (and when to trash it).

                    • Agreed: however, things like processing for style are a lot harder in LR – you may not have anything fundamentally wrong with the image, but you may also not be able to present it the way you want without the local adjustments and layers.

                    • Maybe that fits with your existing experience level tiers, though? LR/ACR (beginner) –> PS (intermediate) –> Processing For Style (advanced, and already in the pipeline).

                    • Not quite – as you point out, LR is probably better suited to people who already have the capture portion sorted – and that’s definitely not beginners. Paradoxically, as you say, less work is required the better a photographer you become…

                    • Touché! We can all attest to battling for hours trying to make that one photo special, only to look back later and think “why the hell did I even keep that?!”

                      This LR video’s a definite head-scratcher.

  31. Paul Stokes says:

    Ming, best wishes for the New Year and continued success in your endeavours. Thanks for convincing me to buy a Hasselblad and go out and use it.

  32. Fredrik Redin says:

    I wish you a successful and joyful 2014, and I hope you continue to find a comfortable balance between work and creative endeavours. I love this site and your ability to shed light upon many interesting topics. Happy new years Ming! Greetings from Stockholm / Fredrik

  33. Ming – I thought one of your big issues (apart from dodging and burning) with LR/ACR was how the algorithm worked for sharpening. How have you got around that?

    • Unfortunately not. But it’s become much less of an issue now that almost none of my cameras have AA filters; one fine sharpening pass seems to be sufficient.

  34. just as I was going to say – dont buy any more gear the Ricoh’s price dropped another 20 bucks. Devilish temptation.

    Happy new year Ming, you are doing great work and your site is one of a kind.

  35. Good success in 2013 I’d say Ming. Less gear for me in 2014 would be a great start, since I purchased tons after switching from FF dSLR to m4/3, a good move for me… but it’s not about the equipment.

  36. Re: ‘6) Share your knowledge’ – I really appreciate that you’re generous with what you’ve learned. This site and your videos have taught me a lot and remind me to also share what I know.

  37. paul witzig says:

    Ming, you are a continuing inspiration. Thank you

  38. Ron Scubadiver says:

    No megapixels, what’s that. I have more of those than I can deal with. In 2013 I got through an entire year without buying a body or a lens. OK, I scooped up some computer gear, but most of that I would have bought if my only camera was a mobile phone. As for distant objects, the mirror on my car says objects are closer than they appear. Now that is a message. Ming, have a great 2014, and thanks for all the thought provoking articles of 2013.

  39. My 2014 resolution: Shoot MORE film. A LOT more.

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